And the season turned…

Echinops are fabulous, if spiky perennials that can be swarming with bees. Cut them down as soon as they have flowered and you will get a second showing.

Leaving aside the change in the temperatures from last week, you have been able to feel it this week, that Autumn is in the air and we have passed into the end of summer phase. I am not thinking all doom and gloom, just that there is that smell and a feeling in the air and the garden that we are entering the final flourishes of Summer.Last week with its record breaking temperatures, meant ridiculously early starts for me to try and avoid being a ‘Mad Dog or Englishmen’ being out in the midday sun. The exceptional weather did have a very rare impact on me in that I went to work in shorts. I felt like I was naked gardening. I have only worn shorts on a handful of occasions since starting the business 15 years ago. The first few times I wore shorts I ended up waist high in nettles and brambles or being bitten to death. So now it is trousers all the way and I am ready to tackle whatever the day throws at me. I always wear my sturdy boots too. I gardened at home in flip flops a little while ago, I just wanted to plant one new perennial. How hard could it be! Well, I ended up with a bleeding toe. So take my advice, whatever the weather, however simple the job, don’t do it in flip flops!

I am not sure if I am a little odd choosing the job I have, as I don’t enjoy working in the hot weather. Most people I speak to, seem to think I should be relishing my job in the summer months. Not me, July and August are my least favourite months for working. The heat, the flies, but also the frustration at how little you can do. Disappointments and disasters can be scattered all around the garden and there is very little you can do until the autumn. I am talking about plants that have been mislabelled and turn up the wrong colour, ruining your planned display, White tulips that open pink, Iris that should be yellow and open blue. These occurrences can ruin the whole look and theme of a border for the whole summer. Equally plants which are not quite growing the way you expected and need a little moving around now you see how they grow in your specific conditions and not just what the books say. Everytime you go out to the garden all I see is the to do list for what needs changing. I don’t very often just get to enjoy the flowers for what they are.

Sometimes I have to work hard to remember I do actually love trees. They don’t make it easy when you have to sweep up after them in July!

Really enjoyed reading James Wong’s article in the Guardian on Sunday 28th about gardeners killing plants. It is true that there are plants growing all over the place, defying all of the criteria laid down by the gardening gods as to where they should be growing. Contrary to this is you can bring home your new pride and joy and give it everything it is supposed to want in the right ratio and it will still die. Gardening is just about experimenting with different plants in different places. All of the advice books can not hope to cover every microclimate. They deal with generalisations. So go one, as James Wong said, get killing plants by being brave and experimenting. It is so satisfying when some of them live! The buzz of excitement you get seeing the first flowers on your Pomegranate tree or the first fruit on your Aubergines never goes away no matter how many successes you have!

Lots of soggy looking plants around this week. Such a shame the flowers don’t last once they have got wet. never mind, dead head and keep up the feeding regime and more will come.

Exciting times as the summer moves on Heleniums, Rudbeckia and Anemone’s all to flower yet but one of my favourite are the Agapanthus. This one was bought for me by a client from Madeira. It took a couple of years before it flowered but last summer it did and this year it is nearly ready to open again. I don’t remember there being blue and a white one last year but there is this year.

Further joy from my Zinnia which are just about opening. I sowed the seed very late but nice to see they have made a good effort in catching up.

I will leave you trying to keep the cabbage whites off your brassicas and trying to decide whether things need watering or bailing out! Finally next time I go to Dorset I am not leaving until I wander round Hestercombe gardens. The formal gardens are a brilliant example of the famous partnership between Edward Lutyens and Gertrude jekyll and I have been all the way down there twice now and never had chance to stop! Happy Days in the Garden x

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